Category Archives: Regional News

Wes Wilson responds to Denver Post critique of HB1355

A few days ago, the Denver Post published an editorial – Colorado oil and gas bill deserves defeat – that urged legislators to defeat HB1355, which decrees that “local governments can determine where new industrial activities occur within their jurisdiction through zoning ordinances and resolutions.” In response, Be The Change’s Environmental Advisor – Wes Wilson – wrote the following letter:

 

The Post’s editorial board deliberately and doggedly continues to ignore health damages from fracking. Dr. Lisa McKenzie and her colleagues at the Anschutz Medical School demonstrated that living next to oil and gas wells in Colorado increases the chances of birth defects.1

Dr. Theo Colborn’s careful year-long study of toxic emissions from drilling found cancer-causing benzene, methyl chloride, and a host of other toxic gases that harm health.2 These toxic emissions were ubiquitous even among properly operating wells.

Governments must act to protect public health and safety, for these are its highest functions. Clearly, in satisfying these overarching concerns, government can and must restrain mineral rights development when health and safety are threatened. County commissions and city councils have the authority to restrict gravel mining to comply with their zoning rules to preserve property values and protect publlc safety. The regulation of the oil and gas industry must be subject to the same standards. Moreover, a takings claim under the 5th amendment would be difficult to demonstrate given the industry’s track record of being able to drill horizontally from to 2 to 3 miles out. Moreover, a claim of takings would be impossible to make given the present depressed price for oil and gas. These prices make fracking uneconomic and have much of this heavily leveraged industry sliding into default and bankruptcy. There is little likelihood this trend will change in the near or mid term.

Oil and gas production contribute to climate change; their toxic emissions damage the health of those living nearby; and most of the organic compounds that make Colorado’s Front Range unable to comply with federal ozone standards come from oil and gas operations. The editorial board at the Post must stop bobbing like an Ostrich, tell the people of the dangers associated with fracking, or lose its right to be a voice of the people. It has no right to lie, repeatedly, as a public voice. As a voice of corporate interests, it of course does.

1 Lisa McKenzie, et. al. Birth Outcomes and Maternal Residential Proximity to Natural Gas Development in Rural Colorado, http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1306722/

2 Colborn, et. al., An Exploratory Study of Air Quality near Natural Gas Operations, http://endocrinedisruption.org/assets/media/documents/HERA12-137NGAirQualityManuscriptforwebwithfigures.pdf

 

Wes Wilson, Environmental Advisor
Be The Change USA

Phil Doe makes impassioned plea to pass HB-1310

A few weeks ago, Be The Change’s Environmental Director, Phil Doe, testified in support of Representative Joe Salazar’s bill – HB-1310 – which shifts the balance of rights in split estates from mineral owners to the surface owners. The bill holds oil and gas operators strictly liable for damage to the health of the surface owner, to the land, and to earthquake damage caused by deep well injection.  The bill has passed the Colorado House and now moves to the Republican-controlled Senate.

 

We very much support HB 1310.  It is deeply needed.  It moves in the direction of sanity and supports our state constitution’s admonition in the Bill of Rights concerning political power and to whom it rightfully belongs:

“All political power is vested in and derived from the people,… originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.”

The Oil and Gas Conservation Act is an abuse of this constitutional guiding principle, for it gives away the people’s right to self determination and bestows it ignominiously on the oil and gas industry.  If this were not true, if this had not been done, you would not have the growing rebellion by citizens in cities and towns threatened by fracking, and you would not have this bill before you today.

I spoke at the Greeley city council meeting the other night.  I was there to support the people’s right to determine what was best for the “good of the whole.”  The city council, by a 5-2 vote, voted for what was best for the property rights of a small fracking company headed by recent School of Mines graduates loaded down with speculative money from Wall Street.

The majority of the council, led by Mayor Tom Norton, asserted, tangentially, that the property rights of the few were superior to the rights of the many.  Individual speculative profits trumped citizen issues of public health and safety, or the good of the whole, if you will.

The growing contempt for government we find in this country derives from decisions like that seen in Greeley the other night.  The out of town speculator, pockets loaded down with out of town money got over two hours to make his case before the council.  The citizens, armed only with their concerns, were given 3 minutes apiece.

Finally, I implore you all to review a decision made by your legislative predecessors.  They gave the COGCC the right of preemption.  In so doing they took away the rights of the people to self-determination on all matter oil and gas. They acted unlawfully, unconstitutionally, in my opinion, for they effectively revoked the constitutional guaranteed right of Home Rule, Article V, the rights of citizens to determine what is best for their city and neighborhoods when the issue is of dominant local concern.  There is nothing more local than the threat of an oil well in your backyard, accompanied by the realization that the state has taken away your rights to petition the government.  Really, as it now stands, your only option is to move.  But who’d buy the property?

 

Phil Doe – Environmental Director, Bet The Change USA

 

Be The Change USA endorses letter to Obama: “Keep it in the ground”

DENVER— The following Local, regional and national organizations sent a letter today to President Obama calling on him to “keep federal fossil fuels in the ground” and cancel the Bureau of Land Management’s federal oil and gas lease sale slated for Nov. 12 in Lakewood, Colo., owing to concerns over runaway greenhouse gas pollution and the climate crisis: Continue reading

Be The Change letter to the PUC regarding Boulder municipalization

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Following is a letter from Be The Change’s Board of Directors to the Colorado Public Utility Commission regarding Boulder’s bid to operate their own municipal utility grid:

 

November 2, 2015

To the Public Utility Commission:

Subject: PUC Hearing scheduled for November 4, 2015

In our opinion, the City of Boulder has every right to expect the PUC to hear its proposal to own and manage the utilities that serve its people.  This right is a constitutional guarantee gained by the people from the Home Rule provision of the state constitution, Article XX, added by a vote of the people in 1902, and strengthened by amendment in 1912.

It came about because of legislative over reach.  In a nutshell, the people of Denver thought that, with regard to internal matters, they should have the right to determine how local government worked on their behalf.  The legislature thought otherwise.  The people won.  They should win in this case as well.

We point you in particular to Article XX, Section 6.  It says in part that a city charter shall be its “organic law,” extending in scope to “to all local and municipal matters” and shall “supersede within said city or town any law of the state in conflict therewith.”  One might argue, given the clear constitutional language guaranteeing self-determination for home rule cities, it would be unconstitutional for the PUC not to hear Boulder’s proposal.

Furthermore it is our understanding Boulder would like to move more quickly toward renewables, wind and solar, and away from the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act’s dependence on switching from coal to natural gas for electrical energy.

Growing evidence suggests that, over the short term, natural gas may be accelerating climate heating, even more than CO2 from coal–because a unit of unburned or leaked natural gas traps over 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than an equal unit of CO2 from coal over a ten year span. The ten-year time horizon is thought critical to controlling other feedback loops, such as the thawing of methane sequestered in Arctic tundra.

If so much of the natural gas were not escaping into the atmosphere before being burned, this dire prediction would not be the case. But as Robert Howarth, Cornell University professor and chair of the Department of Ecology and Environmental Biology at Cornell University demonstrated in a peer reviewed scientific paper released only weeks ago, the leak rate from shale gas in particular is alarming and climate threatening.

His research shows the leak rate for fracked wells over their life cycle, from well to consumer, to be in the 12 percent range. He concludes, “There is no bridge fuel, and switching from coal to shale gas is accelerating rather than slowing global warming.”

He concludes by reminding people that the way out is through renewables, and that studies done at Stanford show that ”we can move from a fossil fuel-

driven economy to one driven totally by renewable energy sources (largely solar and wind) in a cost-effective way using only technologies that are commercially available today. The major part of the transition can be made within the next 15 years, largely negating the need for shale gas, with a complete transition possible by 2050.”

Boulder citizens and civic leaders seem to have anticipated Dr. Howarth’s conclusions and recommendations.  We think it supremely important to this and future generations that you hear Boulder’s proposal for ownership and management of its utility. The language in Article XX of our State Constitution demands nothing less.

 

Thank you,

 

Barbara Mills-Bria

President

Be the Change

 

Phil Doe

Environmental Director

Be the Change

 

Wes Wilson

Science Advisor

Be the Change

O&G Task Force member slams COGCC rule-making

Jim Fitzgerald, a Bayfield rancher, activist, and member of Governor Hickenlooper’s Oil and Gas Task Force, sent the following letter to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) in response to  their current rule-making regarding the Task Force recommendations.

The Task Force was formed last year as part of a back-room compromise between the governor and Jared Polis, who in turn withdrew two ballot measures that would have increased drilling setbacks and given local governments a veneer of control over O&G operations within their jurisdictions.  In February, the 21 member Task Force sent the Governor nine recommendations regarding O&G operations in Colorado, which many regarded as ineffectual.

Here is the text of Jim’s letter to the COGCC:

 


 

Commissioners,
Consider this as comment on your current rulemaking about Task Force recommendations from a very disgruntled member of that Task Force. The issues you are currently considering are only a small portion of what you should be considering for adoption. The COGCC must consider all thirteen of the oil and gas task force proposals which received 11 or more votes from the 21 member task force.
Gwen Lachelt, the former chairwoman of the oil and gas task force told the Durango Herald (Oct 10) that the rules currently proposed by the COGCC “gut” the intent of the task force. Not only do they gut our intent, they simply disappeared 13 proposals which received positive votes from a majority of the task force. In order to understand how so many intelligent people could waste so much time in the production of something so useless, it’s important to describe the outrageous rigging of the process by the governor’s office.
The 21 members of the task force (including myself) were recruited and assembled under Executive Order B 2014 005. Section II E of that Order stated that: “Recommendations of the Task Force regarding new or amended legislation shall be made by a two-thirds vote of the membership.” It was understood by many , if not most of the members that any proposal that did not require new or amended legislation and which received a simple majority of support would be forwarded for consideration for a rulemaking by the COGCC. After several weeks of meetings, Mike King from the Department of Natural Resources informed our group that all proposals would need a two-thirds vote in order to be considered for adoption. There was no vote on this change. It was simply announced. Therefore when the Keystone Center issued the final report they made the bizarre decision to place 13 proposals which received 11 or more votes in the section of “Minority Report”. The result was that several important proposals to give local governments more standing have not been considered even when they had as many as 13 positive votes. Thirteen out of 21 is not a minority. (See recommendations #7, #12, 12a, and #2 for example.)There were several other important proposals with majpority votes which were excluded.
The governor has chosen to make a mockery of the entire Task Force purpose and process. There were many who chose to participate in that Task Force who did so with much skepticism about accomplishing a whole lot. But I believe that even the most cynical of us never thought that there would be such shameless manipulation to ensure an outcome that had been pre-decided. An outcome that did not reflect in any way the hard work and sincere effort that the majority of Task Force members put into this.

 

Jim Fitzgerald

Wes Wilson urges tighter control of fugitive methane

In testimony at an EPA public hearing this week, Wes Wilson of Be The Change USA urged regulators to tighten control over methane emissions from oil and gas wells. Below is Wes’s complete testimony at the hearing.

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“I worked here — at EPA’s Regional Office in Denver — as an environmental engineer for over 35 years. I represent BE THE CHANGE, a Colorado non-profit organization dedicated to better government.

I’m here today as a concerned citizen to testify that these rules are inadequate as a remedy and not in time to be effective.

Continue reading

Colorado is ever riper for oil and gas exploitation

  

By Phil Doe

It is a truth universal that when a politician establishes a task force to examine an explosive public issue, often an issue of his own making, said politician will term the task force’s recommendations remarkable in both their wisdom and farsightedness.

This truth was borne out on February 24th when Colorado Governor Hickenlooper’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Fracking issued its carefully vetted and resultantly sparse recommendations. He personally selected the 21 members, so of course it was fitting he label them Blue Ribbon and congratulate them on a job well done. The majority were oil executive cronies or political yesteryears friendly to him or the industry. Continue reading

Banking on Colorado conference videos now online

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Videos of the entire Banking on Colorado Conference are now available on the Banking on Colorado conference website.

The conference, sponsored by Be The Change USA, the Public Banking Institute, and the Denver Foundation, was held in Denver on January 31 and attracted 120 activists who heard national leaders in the Public Banking movement discuss the corrupt practices of the Too-Big-To-Fail banks and alternatives offered by public banks.

Conference speakers included:

  • Nomi Prins  – Senior Fellow at Demos, former Managing Director at Goldman Sachs; former Senior Managing Director at Bear Stearns. Nomi authored  All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power and It Takes A Pillage: Epic Tale of Power, Deceit & Untold Trillions
  • Ellen Hodgson Brown – Founder, President Emerita, and Senior Advisor, Public Banking Institute. Ellen authored Web of Debt and The Public Bank Solution
  • Gwendolyn Hallsmith – Executive Director, Public Banking Institute. Gwen authored Creating Wealth: Growing Local Economies with Local Currencies and The Key to Sustainable Cities
  • Mike Krauss – Chairman, Board of Directors, Pennsylvania Public Bank Project and
    Founding Board Member, Public Banking Institute
  • Karl Beitel – Director, Public Bank Project.  Karl authored Local Protest, Global Movements: Capital, Community, and State in San Francisco 

 

Colorado Oil and Gas Task Force Releases Final Report

The 21 member Colorado Oil and Gas Task Force appointed by Governor Hickenlooper to “examine … issues surrounding oil and gas operations and provide recommendations” has released its official report, which can be read in it’s entirety here:

Colorado Oil and Gas Task Force Final Report (5.7 MB).

The report includes nine recommendations, each approved by at least two-thirds of the task force members. Given that the task force was split between O&G representatives and other stakeholders, it’s not surprising that the recommendations address none of the big issues raised by Fractivists and others advocating for local control over O&G operations in their jurisdictions.

Here are the nine recommendations:

  1. RECOMMENDATION TO FACILITATE COLLABORATION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENTS, COLORADO OIL AND GAS CONSERVATION COMMISSION AND OPERATORS RELATIVE TO OIL AND GAS LOCATIONS AND URBAN PLANNING
  2. RECOMMENDATION TO INCLUDE FUTURE OIL AND GAS DRILLING AND PRODUCTION FACILITIES IN EXISTING LOCAL COMPREHENSIVE PLANNING PROCESSES
  3. RECOMMENDATION TO ENHANCE THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT LIAISON AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT DESIGNEE ROLES AND FUNCTIONS
  4. RECOMMENDATION TO INCREASE COGCC FULL TIME STAFF, INCLUDING INSPECTORS, FIELD OPERATIONS, ENFORCEMENT, AND PERMITTING STAFF
  5. RECOMMENDATION RELATED TO CDPHE STAFFING, A HEALTH COMPLAINT LINE, A HUMAN HEALTH RISK ASSESSMENT, AND A MOBILE AIR QUALITY MONITORING UNIT
  6. RECOMMENDATION TO CREATE AN OIL AND GAS INFORMATION CLEARINGHOUSE
  7. RECOMMENDATION TO REDUCE TRUCK TRAFFIC ON PUBLIC STREETS, ROADS, AND HIGHWAYS FOR OIL AND GAS ACTIVITIES
  8. RECOMMENDATION TO GENERAL ASSEMBLY REGARDING AIR QUALITY RULES
  9. RECOMMENDATION TO IMPLEMENT A COMPLIANCE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

 

Be The Change USA Hosts Public Banking Conference

BankingOnColorado#6.11-14

On January 31, Be The Change USA hosts an outstanding conference on Public Banking:  Banking on Colorado – Prosperity For All.

The conference features three nationally renown experts on Public Banking – Ellen Brown, Mike Krauss, and Gwen Hallsmith, plus Nomi Prins, a  former Director at Goldman Sachs.

The conference aims to educate public officials and citizens of Colorado about the role a public bank could play in creating a more sustainable, democratic economy, and motivate them to act.

When: Saturday, January 31st, 1PM – 8:30PM
Where: The First Universalist Church of Denver, 4101 E Hampden Ave in Denver

Click the links below for:

This conference aims to educate public officials and citizens of Colorado about the role a public bank could play in creating a more sustainable, democratic economy, and motivate them to act.

When:   January 31st, 1PM – 8:30PM
Where: The First Universalist Church of Denver, 4101 E Hampden Ave in Denver

Registration Fee: 

  • $25, or $10 for students with a valid student ID
  • $15 extra for dinner (optional)

 

National Speakers:

Nomi Prins

nomi prinsSenior Fellow at Demos, former Managing Director at Goldman Sachs; former Senior Managing Director at Bear Stearns
Author, All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power and It Takes A Pillage: Epic Tale of Power, Deceit & Untold Trillions

Ellen Hodgson Brown

Ellen BrownFounder, President Emerita, and Senior Advisor, Public Banking Institute
Author, Web of Debt and The Public Bank Solution

 

 

Gwendolyn Hallsmith

gwen hallsmithExecutive Director, Public Banking Institute
Author, Creating Wealth: Growing Local Economies with Local Currencies and The Key to Sustainable Cities

 

 

Mike Krauss

mike kraussChairman, Board of Directors, Pennsylvania Public Bank Project
Founding Board Member, Public Banking Institute